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2016 Lexus NX vs. 2016 BMW X3: Which Is Better?

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author photo by Doug DeMuro January 2016

If you're interested in buying a compact luxury crossover, you'll probably find that the segment is exploding with impressive new choices. Two of the top models are the 2016 Lexus NX and 2016 BMW X3, which both offer a lot of equipment, surprisingly good fuel economy and multiple powertrain options. Which one is better? We've created a close comparison between the NX and the X3 to find out. First, let's see what's new with both models for the 2016 model year.

2016 Lexus NX

The Lexus NX is a compact luxury crossover offered in hybrid or traditional gasoline-powered variants. It's unchanged for the 2016 model year.

2016 BMW X3

The BMW X3 is a luxury crossover with diesel- or gas-powered powertrain choices. Its sole change for 2016 is the addition of a standard 16-speaker Harman Kardon sound system in top-level xDrive35i trim.

Reliability

Because the NX is so new, reliability experts at J.D. Power have not yet rated the crossover for dependability. We have high hopes, though, considering how well other Lexus models score in J.D. Power's surveys. As for the X3, J.D. Power gives it a 3-circle score in its power circle ratings, indicating average dependability.

As for warranty coverage, the Lexus has an advantage. While both models offer 4 years or 50,000 miles of bumper-to-bumper coverage, the NX also boasts 6 years or 70,000 miles of powertrain protection. In comparison, the X3 has no additional powertrain warranty. Between that and Lexus's strong reputation for reliability, we think the NX has a slight advantage in this category, though we're eager to see J.D. Power's reliability ratings to say for sure.

Fuel Economy

The Lexus NX offers two powertrain choices. Gas-powered NX 200t models use a 235-horsepower 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder, which offers up to 22 miles per gallon in the city and 28 mpg on the highway. Meanwhile, the hybrid-powered NX 300h uses a 194-hp 2.5-liter hybrid 4-cylinder, which boasts impressive fuel economy numbers of up to 35 mpg city/31 mpg hwy.

Meanwhile, the X3 offers three engine options. Base models use a 240-hp 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder, which boasts up to 21 mpg city/28 mpg hwy. Drivers looking for better fuel economy can opt for the diesel-powered X3 xDrive28d, whose 180-hp 2.0-liter turbodiesel 4-cylinder returns up to 27 mpg city/34 mpg hwy. Finally, the sporty X3 xDrive35i offers a 300-hp 3.0-liter turbocharged 6-cylinder, which touts up to 19 mpg city/27 mpg hwy.

So, which is better? For drivers interested in the best possible gas mileage, the NX 300h is clearly the fuel economy champ of the bunch and of the entire compact luxury crossover segment. With that said, the diesel-powered X3 xDrive28d also touts respectable numbers. Comparing base-level gasoline models, the NX 200t and X3 sDrive28i tout virtually identical fuel economy figures.

Safety

In government crash testing carried out by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, both the Lexus NX and BMW X3 earned a perfect 5-star overall rating. In crash testing carried out by the nonprofit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the X3 has not yet endured enough testing for a final rating, though the NX earned the firm's excellent Top Safety Pick+ score.

When it comes to safety equipment, both the X3 and NX offer just about everything you might expect. Both SUVs come standard with a wide range of features (like side-curtain airbags, anti-lock brakes and traction control), while both offer several excellent options, like a blind spot monitoring system, lane-departure warning, LED headlights and forward-collision warning with automatic braking. The only differences are minor. The Lexus offers a standard backup camera, while it's optional in the BMW, and the BMW boasts an optional heads-up display, which isn't offered in the NX.

Our take? These two models are at the cutting edge of luxury compact crossover safety, and we'd have no qualms about riding in either one.

Technology

These days, luxury models need to be on the cutting edge of automotive technology to survive, and the Lexus NX and BMW X3 are proof. Both models offer just about every gadget you could imagine, from adaptive LED headlights to multi-angle cameras, lane-keep assist, automatic high beams, comprehensive infotainment systems and adaptive cruise control. If you want high-tech, chances are good that these two SUVs have what you're looking for.

With that said, there are a few differences between the NX and the X3. For instance, while the NX's sound system options max out at eight speakers, the X3 offers up to 16 speakers. But the Lexus offers a power-folding rear seat, a handy option you can't have in the X3. While the X3 offers torque vectoring for improved handling, only the Lexus boasts a wireless charging system for handheld devices.

Both the X3 and the NX are among the highest-tech compact luxury crossovers on the market. While they share most features, drivers looking for specific items may want to closely scan the online configurators for the two SUVs to ensure their desired option is available.

Value

If value is especially important to you, we suspect you'll prefer the Lexus over the BMW. While both models have posted relatively competitive results in the previous categories, a base-level X3 is around $4,100 more expensive than a base-level NX, coming in around $39,900 to the NX's $35,800. While the difference is a little closer for fuel-efficient models (the hybrid-powered NX 300h is $42,300 with all-wheel drive, while the all-wheel-drive-only X3 xDrive28d starts at $43,500), the Lexus still beats out the BMW in terms of pricing.

Of course, the BMW offers a few unique items you can't have in the Lexus and not just in terms of features. It touts better acceleration, stronger performance and improved handling, for instance, and many prefer the BMW's look and brand name. But those items won't help the X3 trump the NX in terms of value, where the Lexus is our clear winner.

Autotrader's Advice

Although the 2016 Lexus NX and 2016 BMW X3 offer similar sizing, pricing and equipment, the two models have some key differences. Most notably, we think the NX is for shoppers who focus more on value, equipment and fuel economy, while the X3 is for drivers interested in style, performance and interior design and quality. You probably already know the category in which you belong. To us, both of these crossovers are great at what they do. The winner of this comparison, however, depends on your own preferences.

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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2016 Lexus NX vs. 2016 BMW X3: Which Is Better? - Autotrader